Although just 15 years old, he's already 61/2 feet tall. So you can easily understand why Jerimyjah Batts dreams of one day playing professional basketball.

But he's smart enough to know he'd better have a backup plan.

So for four hours each weekday this summer, Batts will be learning about geography at Temple University and using GPS technology to help mark trails in Fairmount Park.

The sophomore at Communications Technology High School is among 125,000 American youths who have gained jobs this summer as a result of the $787 billion stimulus program enacted in February.

The White House counts their part-time hours toward the 600,000 jobs of all kinds it says the stimulus will save or create this summer.

Batts, taking a break from a class inside Temple's Gladfelter Hall, said he didn't know a lot about the stimulus program. But he said he was "glad to have a job."

Without it, he said, he'd be "just laying at home, watching TV."

If not an NBA player, he said, he hoped to be a counselor. He recognized, he said, that he'd probably need to go to college, and he hopes to "bring my C's up."

If he sticks with his six-week job - in which he is earning the minimum wage, $7.25 an hour - he could qualify for an elective-course credit at his high school.

The stimulus program includes $1.2 billion for youth employment, including this summer's program. The funding beefs up a federally financed program that has existed for years.

In Pennsylvania, it means as much as $31 million in additional money to finance about 8,700 youth jobs this summer. In New Jersey, a windfall of $20.8 million in extra money will pay for about 6,500 jobs.

The funding is geared toward low-income youth. The stimulus will pay for about 2,500 jobs in Philadelphia and 600 in Camden. Six other counties in the region will get smaller shares of the jobs.

The Philadelphia Youth Network, which runs the summer jobs programs in the city, placed Batts in a program sponsored by Temple University and the Friends of the Wissahickon.

The 82 students in his group will spend two weeks on campus and the rest of their time working in the park. According to a program description, they'll work with Temple students and others "in generating spatial data sets related to a park project that will place markers on new trails."

If that sounds sophisticated, it's meant to.

The program is typical of many, city officials said. They're intended to offer more than the drudgery of sweeping playgrounds or picking up litter. Some involve academics, and all are aimed at providing "meaningful work."

"It's preparing them to move into the workforce in a good way," said Sallie A. Glickman, executive director of the Philadelphia Workforce Investment Board. "They can build a portfolio and a resumé, and all the things they need to get a job."

Mayor Nutter, in an interview, said: "It's not just about the money [for the job-holders]. . . . We're trying to get young people focused on 'What are you going to do as you move through high school?' "

Counties have some leeway in shaping the summer youth program.

In Montgomery County, 140 youths are earning more than the minimum wage - $8 an hour - and some of what they are doing does, in fact, involve physical labor.

"They need to learn how to come to work on time, work in teams, get along with the boss," said Gerald Birkelbach, executive director of the Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board. " . . . There is dignity in all work, and having a productive summer - that really is the goal."

But he agreed that the experience had to be "meaningful work, not just picking up rocks in the parking lot."

On Tuesday, on the second day of the Philadelphia program, part of Batts' group was sitting in a darkened classroom at Gladfelter Hall. On a screen, a leader was showing Google satellite images of objects in the region, nation, and world. The students were using geographic clues to identify the objects.

At the same time, out on campus, another part of the group was on a sort of scavenger hunt. Michele Masucci, the Temple program director, said that, in principle, there was little difference between learning to navigate in an urban landscape and in the woods the students will explore later.

The group's objective on a sun-soaked day was a square patch of grass next to Anderson Hall. Group members located it using satellite images and a series of narrative clues that led them from one part of campus to the next.

Most of the youths were from Temple's neighborhood in North Philadelphia.

Chablis Morant, 14, said she entered the program to learn about environmental science, which she hopes to study in college.

"I wanted to learn about how to get ready for work and be prepared," said Morant, who will enter Cardinal Dougherty High School as a freshman in the fall.

For Kia Howard, 14, the program represents her first job.

She wants to learn about environmental issues - an interest that her mother has fostered by becoming more eco-friendly at home.

"We're trying to do everything green now," said Howard, who will be a freshman at Frankford High School.

Tyler Hynes, 15, a rising junior at St. Joseph's Prep who hopes to become a psychiatrist, said: "It's good to have some sort of background in any given subject."

Contact staff writer Tom Infield
at 610-313-8205 or